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Firebirds’ Williams chooses Wingate

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Southern Nash High senior Lamont Williams wore a relieved expression on his face in the school’s media center after hectic few days of trying to determine which path his future would take.

Williams made his final decision Feb. 6 on National Signing Day when Wingate University football head coach Joe Reich called with an offer to join the Bulldogs of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Conference. Williams, who was recruited by Barton College and Chowan University, said Wingate just struck a chord with him.

“All three schools showed a lot of love, but it was something about Wingate that made me decide that’s where I wanted to further my education,” said Williams, noting his weekend visit to the Wingate campus, located about 30 miles southeast of Charlotte, sealed the deal.

However, one problem remained, as the Bulldogs had not yet offered any athletic money. When the call came Feb. 6, Williams knew he was headed to Wingate. With a combination of athletic and academic funds, Williams will have most of his tuition paid.

His mother, Mecolla Davenport, and brother, Dondrea Davenport, were there to witness Williams sign his National Letter of Intent to accept Wingate’s offer.

Williams, who played offensive and defensive line during his three seasons as a member of the Firebirds varsity squad, said he will play defense for the Bulldogs.

“I need to work more on conditioning, work harder than the person in front of me and put my mind to everything I’m doing,” said the 5-foot-11 ¾, 295-pound Williams, who plans to major in sports management.

The Bulldogs finished 9-4 last second and were runners-up to Lenoir-Rhyne in the SAC. Wingate earned a second straight spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs and finished the 2018 season ranked No. 24 in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll, its second consecutive ranked finish.

Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster, who played at Lenoir-Rhyne during his college days last century, said Williams has what it takes to be successful at that level.

“He’s just good kid — a hardworking kid, quiet, well-spoken, considerate, tough — he’s strong as an ox,” Foster said, ticking off Williams’ physical gifts such as being able to grab a basketball rim from a standing jump, broad-jumping more than eight feet, bench-pressing more than 350 pounds and squatting more than 450 pounds.

“He’s a good athlete,” Foster said. “But he’s going to play with some dudes, but I think he’s the kind who can do it because he cares about it and it means something to him and he’s used to winning. That’s big. He’s used to knowing what has to take place to win. In his three (varsity) years, we’ve been 34-4. … And he’s done a lot of good stuff for that.”

Indeed, Williams started parts of all three varsity seasons, the three best in Southern Nash history. The Firebirds won three straight 3-A Big East Conference championships in undefeated fashion. Williams credited his Firebirds teammates and coaches, especially defensive line coach Kwamaine Battle and Foster.

“Just working with them improved me and Coach Battle and Coach Foster taught me a lot of stuff,” he said.

Williams admitted that he didn’t have the best grades in middle school, but he quickly learned that academics were a big part of football at Southern Nash.

“It sets a high bar,” Williams said of his high school football experience. “It was hard to get up there with the predicament I was in with my grades and stuff. I had to get them up.”

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